12 Tips For Beautiful Family Travel Photography From An Expert

Time away with my family is always precious, and as my children have grown older I have come to realise that the photos we have taken with them while travelling mean so much. As they grow, capturing the genuine moments that reflect their personality is priceless to look back upon. In this article, I have listed my top family travel photography tips as a professional photographer to help you do the same. 

As a professional photographer focusing on weddings with over ten years of experience, I have made a living out of capturing candid shots of special moments in time, and that knowledge has been the basis of this list of family travel photography tips. 

Georgia and Eva playing ain a corn feild with incredible, diffused light which is a key family travel photography tips.

Time Spent in Reconnaissance is Seldom Wasted

Just like any children, Georgia and Eva have a limited attention span. This is especially true when the weather is hot, and they would rather be at the pool! This means if I want to create special family pictures, I need to move quickly. I cannot waste their precious energy dragging them around for hours to look for the perfect spot and wait for the perfect light. 

By taking the time to do some research it means I have a clear plan of the best vantage points, popular local photography spots, and the ideal times.

I find the best place to start looking for great photo opportunities is Instagram. I search around the area and check hashtags to see where would make an amazing setting. Once you have an idea where to go, if possible, visit it yourself before you take your children so you know exactly what to expect. 

Also, I use an ephemeris to check the position of the sun at certain times of the day. Don’t worry, you don’t have to carry a sextant around, there are plenty of great apps that do the job! I use The Sun Ephemeris on Android, and in the past, I have used The Photographer’s Ephemeris on Apple. With these apps, you tell it the location, time of day, and time of year and it will show you exactly where the sun will be and when the golden hour will begin.

Also, if I have the time, I explore an area myself to see if I can find something new. This reconnaissance can uncover hidden gems that guidebooks often overlook.

Set The Time Aside To Create Something Special.

One of the key family travel photography tips is that creating something amazing can take time and effort, so schedule a photo session. 

As a family, we have a terrible habit of trying to cram too much into a trip, so to make sure we get something special, we always put aside a few hours of the trip for photos. When combined with a little research (see above), it means we can craft images that tell the story of our journey.

Listen To Your Children When They Ask You To Stop

You can have the best photography gear, the best light, and be the best travel photographer in the world, but if your kids have had enough, there is no point in trying to take any more family photos that day. 

Rather than forcing the situation, it is far better to call it a day and try again when everyone is refreshed and recharged. Of all the family travel photography tips here, this is probably the most important.

family travel photography tips
Plumb tuckered out.

Make The Most of The Golden Hours, Especially in The Morning

When you are on holiday, the last thing you want to do is get up early but catching at least one early morning golden hour is a must. 

Being out with your camera the hour after sunrise has some big advantages. It is cooler, so your kids will not overheat. It is much quieter, so you have fewer distractions and people to shoot around. Your children will have just woken up and be fresher, so they will have more energy. Finally, the light is amazing! Warm, flattering light is a huge step to getting the perfect shot.

Walking down a beach at sunrise is one of life’s great pleasures and will make some wonderful images. 

We have also used this technique to explore some amazing landmarks. By being up early we have been to The Pulpit in Norway, Nessebar in Bulgaria, and even managed to sneak into Disney Land with barely another person there!

Of course, the hour before sunset can also be incredible. Unfortunately, it tends to be busier and at the end of an enjoyable but tiring day.  

A very young Eva and Georgia on the beach in Cuba at sunrise.

If you are finding these family travel photography useful, I go into much more detail about some of the principles and techniques that underpin great travel photography in my article here: Powerful Travel Photography Tips From A Professional

I go into much more detail about some of the principles and techniques that underpin great travel photography in my article here:

Powerful Travel Photography Tips From A Professional

During The Day, Search For Open Shade Or Shadow

The light at different times of the day can make a huge difference to your photos. While bright, harsh sunlight can make for very interesting visuals, it is generally pretty terrible for family photographs. Direct natural light makes for harsh shadows and overexposed patches and certainly seems to cause Georgia and Eva to squint. 

One solution to this is to let the girls wear their sunglasses in the photos, but then you lose eye contact. Much better instead is to search for open shade.

An important family travel photography tip is to avoid harsh light
An example of harsh light spoiling the photo. Both the girls are squinting in the bright sun and we have our sunglasses on.

Open shade refers to areas where your children are shielded from direct sunlight but still benefit from natural illumination. These spots can be found under awnings or buildings with large overhangs. Open shade provides soft, even lighting that enhances your photos without the harsh contrast of direct sunlight. This is family travel photography tips that takes a bit of practice to perfect but is worth the effort.

One word of warning is about using trees for open shade. Tress can provide a very dappled light that does not look good in the camera, so beware unless you want everyone to look like a Dalmatian. 

This was taken on phone on a family walk on a very bright, cloudless day. By putting the girls in open shadow next to a wall the light looks great.

Family Travel Photography Tips – Embrace “In The Moment” Photos

Embracing candid moments is a secret weapon for authentic family travel photos. While planned shots have their charm, candid photographs capture genuine emotions and interactions.

This is something that always rang true during my time as a wedding photographer. There was a clash between the obligatory, dull family group photos and the genuine, fun, “in the moment” photos. Certainly, I preferred taking the latter! 

Candid, unposed photos will allow your children to be themselves. This means that it will not be all smiles all the time, but the range of expression and emotion they will display will mean a great deal looking back on these photos 20 years from now. 

Georgia giggling her head off and Eva eating a Cuban bank note.

Invest In Tough Gear Like a GoPro for Even More Genuine Images

I love our GoPro. After spending 15 years lugging heavy cameras and constantly worrying about damaging fragile lenses, having a camera that I can fit in my pocket and kick down a mountain is refreshing. 

With this toughness comes versatility. Being able to strap it to the kids as they go down a slide or take photos underwater gives you so much more freedom to capture images “in the moment”. 

This is one of the newest family travel photography tips pm the list and yes, there are limitations. You have a fixed lens, and it is more geared to video than photo, but the versatility of being able to strap it to helmets, bikes, surfboards, or even your body more than makes up for it. 

You can take a GoPro where you would never take a camera.

Don’t Chase Photography Fads; Think What You Will Want To See In 20 Years

As a photographer, I have seen so many TikTok and Instagram fads come and go, and these fads would reflect in what my clients requested. From selective desaturation (or colour pop) to overly processed “filter” style images, I have seen it all.

Fundamentally, as a professional, the paying client calls the shots. If I was photographing a wedding or family photoshoot I would deliver images as requested but also produce a version of the images that were more timeless and subtle in the edit. I have had people reach out to me from weddings I photographed over ten years ago to thank me for doing this. 

If you are chasing photography fads, then more power to you and good luck, but I would strongly recommend you do the same. Decades from now, when you come to revisit these images, I promise you that you will be happy you did. By thinking long-term, you can capture photographs that transcend trends and hold enduring value. Overly processed photos will soon look dated, but the simpler edit will look just as good 20 years from now as the day you took it.  Focus on creating photos that will continue to bring joy and nostalgia to your children, grandchildren and beyond. 

Even Google Photos auto-suggests “colour pops” – I honestly could write an article on how much I dislike this type of editing.

Family Travel Photography Tips – Make Sure You Are in Some of the Photos

I am especially guilty of not doing this! As I mentioned above, you are taking these photos not just for you now but for future generations. As your children grow into adults, having photos of you all together to look back on will mean the world to them.

Being part of the photos reinforces the strong bond between you and your children. It shows them that you were actively engaged in their experiences and highlights the importance of family togetherness.

Being in the images is also an act of self-care. It is a way to acknowledge to yourself that you were on this adventure together and part of this family voyage, not just an observer.

Your Camera Gear Does Matter. Quite A Bit. But Not As Much As Technique

I firmly believe that the best camera in the world is the one in your hand, and to focus overly on camera gear is foolish. Be it a phone, a point-and-shoot camera, or a DSLR, the correct application of principles and understanding of light is more important than megapixels when creating amazing photos.

That said, a DSLR will offer advantages over a phone or point-and-shoot camera. A DSLR will provide better image quality, better low-light performance, more accurate focus, make it easier to access your settings by having a manual mode, and better deal with extremes of bright and dark.

Unfortunately, DSLRs are also heavy, expensive, and a constant source of worry. As someone who has travelled the world with my gear, when it is with me, I am worried about dropping it or getting sand in it. When it is in my room I worry about getting it stolen. Don’t even get me started on flying with camera gear

There is a reason why I did not bring a DSLR with us for our family year out. 

Fundamentally, while good equipment can elevate your family travel photography, it is by no means definitive. Believe me when I say you can have all the gear and no idea!

More important are your skills and creativity. Make the most of whatever equipment you choose to use and focus on capturing the moments and memories that matter most to your family.

I take flying with my gear quite seriously.

Give Kids Their Own Camera

One fantastic way to capture unique perspectives of your family travels is to give your children their own camera. Kids are naturally curious and imaginative and are not bound by preconceptions. Providing them with a camera empowers them to document their own experiences.

Opt for a child-friendly, durable camera that’s easy for them to use. When the girls were very small they had VTech Kidizoom, which was a great starting point. Now they are a bit older, they have an Olympus Tough TG-6, which can do some great things with the added benefit of being able to take a battering.

Explain to your children the basics of framing and taking pictures, and let them explore their creativity. When you look back at their photos, you’ll get a fresh perspective on your family’s adventures, seeing the world through their eyes.

If I am honest, 99% of what they take will be terrible, but that 1% will be solid gold!

Family Travel Photography Tips – Organise Your Photos As Soon As You Can

One of the biggest changes I have seen in my time as a photographer is how much more accessible it has become. Gone are the days of sending off your film to be processed and waiting weeks to see if you took any decent travel photos.

This ease of creating lots of pictures has created a new problem: it is so easy to create hundreds of photos and then let your images sit on the cloud without doing anything with them. 

At the end of every day, I try to skim through and pick out my favourite photos. I find this simple task is always best done when the images are fresh in my head, not days or weeks later.

There is a saying in photography that for every 100 images you take, one will be worth keeping. I think this is a bit pessimistic (I would say 1 in 20 myself!), but the principle is sound. By picking out the best now, it means when I come to revisit them years later I am enjoying the highlights of the trip.

Picking the best also means that if you want to create a photo album or photo book of your holiday photos on your return it will be much easier. Plus, having an album for them makes it easier to skim through and create unique gifts.  Kirsty is always using them to order calendars, memory books and cute little keepsakes for birthdays, Christmas and Father’s Day.

By backing up and organizing your photos, you’ll preserve the magic of your family travels for generations to come.

Being able to go back and quickly find your favourites is invaluable.

Any Family Travel Photography Tips we have missed?

I genuinely hope you have found the above family travel photography tips useful and they lead you on the path to some incredible images! If you think there are any family travel photography tips I have missed please let me know in the comments below.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission at no cost to you. Thanks.

About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

We hate intrusive adverts as much as you do, so we keep our site ad-free. If you enjoy the blog or have found something helpful, you can say "thanks" by buying us a coffee! Just click the button below.

Leave a comment